Large surplus poses export challenge

Wheat exporters are working hard to find new buyers of good quality wheat, but securing high value homes for the UK’s crop is likely to be a slow process.

Based on HGCA trial results, wheat yields are around 20% above the five-year average, which – if replicated in commercial crops – could result in a massive 17m tonne UK wheat crop.

Depending on final yields and domestic requirements for the ethanol industry, that would leave an exportable surplus of in the region of 3m tonnes this year, said Cecilia Pryce, head of research at Openfield.

“We’ve not seen that since 2008-09 and if we’re going to ship that we need to get a wriggle on.”

See also: Upload your harvest photos to our Harvest Highlights gallery.

The market was still missing some information about French wheat quality, especially how much would make the right quality for their usual consumers, she added.

“They don’t normally have to dry and segregate their crop so this year has caught some farmers on the back foot.

“We also don’t know if importers will hold out for French wheat, lower their buying specifications or buy from elsewhere.”

With UK wheat quality looking good, UK farmers could capitalise on that gap in the market, but it would take a lot of work and baking tests to convince buyers that UK wheat could do the job that French usually did, said Mrs Pryce.

“Unfortunately, the UK has been out of the market for a couple of years due to smaller crops and lower wheat quality so it will take a while to get back into the fold. However, we are working hard to identify suitable buyers.”

Although high yields have diluted protein contents, quality was generally good, with around 20% of the crop left to harvest, said Mrs Pryce.

“While there are no obvious quality concerns we have a sizable surplus and securing favourable prices on behalf of growers will require considerable effort.”